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If you know about Yoga, then you know we have to lie on our back during Uttanpadasana (Raised Foot Pose). I do this comfortably. But I'm doubtful if I'm lying down properly or not. How I lie is in following way: enter image description here

Now if you 1st position in image, the knees are relaxed but spine is curved upwards (Note that the curve doesn't represent belly, it's about spine) and there is space between ground and spine (maybe 1-2 inches).

In 2nd position, I have to apply a little effort to 'relax' the abdomen and the spine becomes straight (probably) and space is negligible (I'ts like when we walk without our spine straight, like slouching). But at the same time, the knees are raised a bit, so to bring them down and make legs straight I've to force, so this position doesn't make me feel relaxed.

While in 1st position, I feel relaxed.

So I just want to know if 1st position is right or wrong?

Also, during Yoga (Raised Foot pose) I feel pressure at lower spine, and also in the belly, like stretching). Is this what this Yoga is intended to do?

(I raise feet around 30-40 degrees).

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For most people, the lower back will curve a little bit in a lying down position with straight legs. The reason is, that when the hip is extended, the pelvis will tilt a little bit forward from the weight of the legs. Also, the psoas major attaches to the spine, and does not let the it down when the hips are extended. Bending the knees slightly reduces the extension in the hips and the spine can be flat on the floor.

The "correct" posture will depend on what your goal is.

  1. If your goal is to relax fully in a passive way, the best is to put a pillow under the knees. This allows for the spine to relax on the floor, with the abdominals, back, hips, and legs relaxed.

Relaxing

  1. If your goal is to exercise, then activate the abdominals and force the spine flat on the floor. Start with the legs 90 degrees from the floor and lower them gradually. Most people will find it very difficult to let the legs below 30 degrees and keep the spine on the floor. This is because the abdominal muscles are not strong enough to keep the hips from tilting from the leverage of the legs.

uttana padasana 1

An extreme version of this is known as the hollow body hold in gymnastics, with the legs only slightly lifted from the floor, while keeping the spine flat. For most people this is a really difficult position to hold.

hollow body hold

In yoga, however, it is not necessary that you achieve this level of strength.

Edit - Expanding this point. In yoga asana, you should always try to remain comfortable and not overly exert yourself. In practice it means, that you should approach the pose gradually. Do not lower your leg so much that your breathing, or spinal alignment is compromised. Do not compare yourself with others, because how difficult it is depends on many factors (your weight, body proportions, level of training etc). The correct pose for you might not look exactly like someone elses, so if your leg is higher than shown on pictures/videos then accept that. Gradually increase the time you can hold the pose with ease, and slowly lower your legs. With time, your body will adapt and the pose will feel much easier.

  1. It is usually not a good idea to let the spine off the floor in this pose, because the forces compress the lower back and this can be painful for some people. However, there is a way to do Uttanapadasana with the spine off the floor, which is reasonably safe for the lower back, but it requires that the neck is strong and healty:

uttana padasana 2

This works because the torso is elevated using the head, which reduces the arc in the lower back. Needless to say, this poses a certain risk for the neck, so only do this if your neck is strong enough to support and balance the weight while the neck is extended.

  • No, I want to do the original Uttanpadasana (youtube.com/watch?v=yWs0QLpXKMc Watch the First Asana in this video. You won't understand Hindi but you can see the posture, where legs are raised from ground to 30 degrees upwards). So for this, should I force to keep the spine straight and touch the ground? – user23334 Sep 9 '16 at 1:32
  • Yes, for that, it is a good idea to use force and keep the spine to touch the ground, to protect your lower back. Note, if your question is more about how this pose "should" be done from a traditional/religious, or therapeutic perspective, then this is perhaps not the right forum to ask... I can only provide an answer from an anatomical/physiological point of view. – BKE Sep 9 '16 at 14:38
  • So where should I ask from? Because most Yogis in videos don't seem force while doing this Asana I can say this because their knees are almost NOT raised from ground when the lie down and relax. – user23334 Sep 9 '16 at 14:56
  • I edited my answer to try to answer your point. Hope it helps. Also, notice something on the video you linked: when the yogi lifts his leg, he stops talking, and when he talks, his voice changes a little bit. That means, he is contracting at least a little bit the abdominals. – BKE Sep 9 '16 at 16:03
  • You say comfort. So comfort is when spine is curved when I raise legs (Although comfort is on abdomen only, spine is stressed a lot). Should I continue this? – user23334 Sep 11 '16 at 1:24
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As best I can tell, the intent is to get your spine relaxed with your lower back down to provide more or less a straight line. Indeed, the recommendation is to raise your knees or to even put a bolster or pillow under your legs to prop them up. Some people also get relief by letting the legs fall out (which reduces the profile of the buttocks). For Savasana that makes your legs look like they're in sort of a butterfly pose. When doing Uttanpadasana, it's kind of like a frog stretch.

And the feeling in your lower spine and belly is likely a combination of muscular effort and stretching. Both sides are getting worked because you're suspending your legs in a position between all the way up and all the way down, forcing both sides to work against each other.

  • So should I try to make my spine not curved and parallel, touched to ground? – user23334 Sep 7 '16 at 3:42
  • Yes. It seems that that is indeed the goal. – Sean Duggan Sep 7 '16 at 10:04
  • Even if I manage to do it by raising my knees upwards, as soon as I raise my legs to 30 degrees straight, the spine would be curved again and lift up from ground. – user23334 Sep 7 '16 at 10:59
  • Huh. Does the curve lessen as your feet are raised higher, getting the buttocks out of the way? – Sean Duggan Sep 7 '16 at 11:48
  • No the curve radius increases, and so does the stress on spine. – user23334 Sep 7 '16 at 15:33
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For some reason yoga is still being considered physical exercise, although it was never ment to be.

yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Chitta) from taking various forms (Vrittis) [1]

which is explained as

yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or discursive thought, and of eventually attaining a state where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself, that is, is only aware of its own nature as consciousness unmixed with any other object [2]

It is a school of thought, philosophical school (whatever you want to call it) and body physique is just a by-product of application of special tools (asanas) to attain special state of mind. You can equate asanas to prayers in Christianity, for example.

So if you are just exercising, naturally do whatever requires the most muscle straining to either build muscles (although yoga is extremely inefficient in this regard compared to weight lifting) or stretch them, whatever your goals are.

If you want to practice yoga as philosophical school then provided you have proper theoretical knowledge, start with the asanas where you have to actively focus on performing them, because this will help you silence your "inner dialogue". Relaxation asanas in yoga are actually considered to be quite difficult to perform with shavasana widely considered to be the most difficult and demanding asana in yoga.

Also, yoga lacks the knowledge of term "proper form" as weight lifting has it. There is "canonical form" that you try to achieve gradually as your body becomes more and more accustomed to this or that asana. But the primary idea is that you have to feel comfortable in an asana without any pain or excessive straining. As long as you can hold the resemblance of the form and do the "mental" work (the real goal of yoga) you are fine.

  • The founders of yoga did not intend it to be mere physical exercise, but in the Western world, a significant number of yoga students view it that way. This may dismay spiritual practitioners and lead to claims of cultural appropriation, but does not prevent people from using the physical movements to work on their mobility, stability and endurance. – gwaigh Sep 8 '16 at 17:08
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    How does this answer the specific question? Also, no matter what someone believes yoga was 'meant to be', when they are doing physical exercise (for whatever purpose), the laws of anatomy and physiology apply. – BKE Sep 8 '16 at 17:30

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